Don’t let Danny Landberg or his team tell you any differently – for them, this was personal.
A season removed from falling short in the PSAL final to Lincoln, Erasmus Hall never forgot the pain of losing at Yankee Stadium.
“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t personal,” said Landberg, the Erasmus coach. “It’s so hard to get to the city championship. To get there and not get it when you don’t know if you’ll ever have that opportunity again weighs heavy on your mind. You don’t sleep until you accomplish your goals. You can’t leave something until it’s taken care of.”
While not on the same stage Saturday, Erasmus got its revenge just the same, defeating Lincoln, 27-26, at Sid Luckman Field in Brooklyn.
An overabundance of fans clambered into their seats with many having to stand near the fences on a Homecoming with layers of meaning for the school and the program.
The Dutchmen were more than prepared for their Coney Island foe, playing with the energy of a team hungry for one specific win.
“This game means a lot because they took what we wanted last season in the championship,” Erasmus cornerback Darin Peart said. “It means a lot to all of us to get this win -- the coaches, the fans, the alumni, everybody.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Lincoln jumped in front with 11:07 left in the second quarter when junior running back Antoine Holloman Jr. ran in a 3-yard touchdown.
On the Dutchmen's next possession, quarterback Matthew Domina completed a 25-yard touchdown to wide receiver Loumell Petion on 4th-and-5 with 7:13 to go in the half. Erasmus (7-0), ranked No. 3 in New York City by MSG Varsity, then converted on the extra point to take a 7-6 advantage.
No. 2 Lincoln (5-2) got on the board again when junior running back Leroy Hancle ran in a 2-yard touchdown with 2:34 to go before the half.
The Dutchmen answered back when junior running back Curtis Samuel ran for a 65-yard touchdown off a pitch with 7:55 left in the third quarter.
Samuel was the main impetus behind most of the Dutchmen’s major gains of the day, further validating the very dangerous prospect of Erasmus’ perpetual big-play potential.
“He’s a very explosive player,” Domina said. “He’s a Division I football player. Once he get’s the ball in his hands, he can pretty much do anything. No one is going to catch him on the sideline.”
Lincoln quarterback Javon Moore again swung the pendulum back in the defending champion's favor when the junior hit a wide-open Jordan Nicholson for a 43-yard touchdown pass with 5:44 to go in the third quarter.
Utilizing more of its passing game, Erasmus looked to Domina quite a bit and he did not disappoint. Following a 35-yard pass to sophomore receiver Kefa Cort to put the Dutchmen on Lincoln's 5-yard line, Domina pitched the ball to running back Kahlil Lewin on a sweep for a 5-yard touchdown with 4:53 left in the third quarter. Domina finished 12-of-20 for 207 yards and two touchdowns.
“We watched a lot of film on Lincoln and we knew that their secondary was weak," Domina said. "We pretty much just hit the holes in their defense."
Samuel returned a 54-yard punt for a touchdown with 3:07 left in the game to put the Dutchmen up 27-20. The dynamic running back finished with seven carries for 70 yards, 140 all-purpose yards, and a touchdown.
“Before that play, coach told me to pick up the ball and take it to the house,” Samuel said. “When the ball rolled to me, I picked it up and saw the blocker in front of me and cut left. I saw the punter and I cut across the field to score the touchdown.”
Lincoln marched down the field behind big pass after big pass from Moore, who pulled the Railsplitters within a point on a quarterback sneak with 1:25 left. Without a kicker, Lincoln went for the win with the 2-point conversion, but Moore's desperation pass to the back of the end zone was broken up by Peart to seal the victory for the Dutchmen.
“I have a high confidence level and I just did my job,” Peart said. “The quarterback threw the ball and I knocked it down.”
“Darin does not get enough credit. He’s a fabulous kid,” Landberg said. “He doesn’t feel any nerves and I’m not surprised by his actions. He’s made big plays before. We expect that from him.”
Lincoln head coach, Shawn O’Connor knew it was going to be a dog fight, and while his team has lost two games by a combined two points, he knows that his team lost to the PSAL's top two teams in games that could have gone either way.
“I knew that it was going to come down to the end no matter what the score was going to be,” O’Connor said. “We made too many mental errors in the second half. I told my guys it wasn’t our championship today and we’re not collecting any equipment when we get on the bus. We will have opportunities down the line.”
“We’ll celebrate for the moment, but by no means do we feel like we won’t see them again,” Landberg said. “The bulls-eye is on our back and we have to play even better now.”